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Therapeutic Relationships in Mental Health

Course Code: HCSW 1190
Faculty: Health Sciences
Credits: 3.3
Semester: 8
Learning Format: Lecture, Lab
Typically Offered: TBD. Contact Department Chair for more info.
course overview

The focus of this course in the Health Care Support Work Program is to prepare the student to develop advanced therapeutic relationships in the mental health field through the use of communication skills. Empathy, warmth, and respect will be taught as well as confrontation and immediacy. Communication labs with actors are used to develop these skills. Assessment/communication/interviewing skills will be discussed for various mental disorders. Conflict resolution, problem-solving, and leadership skills will be developed. Group therapy and stress management theories and techniques will be explored. The importance of self-awareness will be stressed throughout the course.

Course Content

  • Self-awareness: Values clarification, Johari window, understanding self to promote client’s growth, boundaries, and limit-setting
  • Therapeutic relationships: Types, phases, and strategies
  • Using a Rogerian approach to develop a therapeutic relationship with individuals with mental health issues
  • Listening and attending skills:  Nonverbal communication, appropriate eye contact and proxemics, SOLER, body posture, and appropriate touching
  • Empathy, warmth, respect, confrontation, and immediacy skills
  • The problem-solving process and ways to implement client-focused interventions
  • Conflict resolution: Identifying resistance, understanding violence, the cycle of violence, and how/when to intervene on the continuum of violence
  • Stress management techniques
  • Risk assessment: risk factors, assessments, and interventions
  • Assessment and communication skills for the following categories of mental disorders:
    • Schizophrenia
    • Mood Disorders
    • Anxiety, Somatoform, and Dissociative Disorders
    • Personality Disorders
    • Eating Disorders
    • Sexual Disorders
    • Co-Occurrent Disorders
    • Child and Adolescent Disorders
  • Empowerment: ways to empower clients and the misuse of power and control
  • Strategies to manage difficult situations: Diffuse, de-escalate, and debrief
  • Concepts of Critical Incident Stress Debriefing (CISD)
  • Application of interviewing and communication skills through structured lab interactions with “clients” (actors)

Methods of Instruction

  • Lecture
  • Case studies
  • Role-Plays
  • Group activities
  • Communication labs with actors
  • May include community service learning and/or participation in community based research projects when available.

Means of Assessment

Course evaluation is consistent with Douglas College course evaluation policy.  An evaluation schedule is presented at the beginning of the course.

This is a graded course and a minimum requirement for successful completion of the course is 65%. 

Learning Outcomes

  • Understand the concepts and importance of the therapeutic use of self (self-awareness)
  • Understand the importance of the therapeutic use of self during interactions with individuals with mental health issues
  • Understand the types, phases, and implementation strategies for therapeutic relationships
  • Demonstrate active listening and attending skills
  • Demonstrate client-centred communication skills of empathy, warmth, and respect, and beginning skills of confrontation and immediacy
  • Understand the problem-solving process in working with a client and/or multidisciplinary team
  • Understand the concepts and skills for conflict resolution
  • Demonstrate an understanding of stress management
  • Demonstrate the theory and application for a risk assessment
  • Demonstrate the various communication skills associated with the following categories of mental disorders:
    • Schizophrenia
    • Mood Disorders
    • Anxiety, Somatoform, and Dissociative Disorders
    • Personality Disorders
    • Eating Disorders
    • Sexual Disorders
    • Co-Occurrent Disorders
    • Child and Adolescent Disorders
  • Understand the concepts of power and empowerment and their effects on therapeutic relationships
  • Identify escalating behaviours and strategies to diffuse, de-escalate, and debrief
  • Demonstrate basic interviewing skills

course prerequisites

HCSW 1101 + HCSW 1102 + HCSW 1103 + HCSW 1104 + HCSW 1105 + HCSW 1106 + HCSW 1107 + HCSW 1108 + HCSW 1109


HCSW 1170

HCSW 1180

HCSW 1195


Courses listed here are equivalent to this course and cannot be taken for further credit:

  • No equivalency courses

curriculum guidelines

Course Guidelines for previous years are viewable by selecting the version desired. If you took this course and do not see a listing for the starting semester/year of the course, consider the previous version as the applicable version.

course schedule and availability
course transferability

Below shows how this course and its credits transfer within the BC transfer system. 

A course is considered university-transferable (UT) if it transfers to at least one of the five research universities in British Columbia: University of British Columbia; University of British Columbia-Okanagan; Simon Fraser University; University of Victoria; and the University of Northern British Columbia.

For more information on transfer visit the BC Transfer Guide and BCCAT websites.


If your course prerequisites indicate that you need an assessment, please see our Assessment page for more information.